Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creating with your senses

by Patty Lakinsmith

I thought it would be fun to explore how each of us immerses our sensory selves in our work as we create. By "sensory selves" I mean our five senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. I assume that all of us use our visual sense as we work, for obvious reasons, but what about the other senses?

Creating with hot glass is a bit different than many other art forms because we can't touch our medium (1700 degree molten glass) directly as we are working with it. We can "touch" it indirectly with tools, but not with our fingers until after it's fully created and annealed (cooled slowly). I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that there have been a number of times that I see something in my bead, for example a small ripple) that I want to reach out and touch, so I can feel it. It doesn't take too much restraint to remind myself that it would not be a wise move, but the temptation occasionally arises.

(image from my Playa Tortuga tutorial)

I do use what I'll call a modified form of touch as I work to ensure that a bead I'm making is and stays centered on the mandrel. I'm working against gravity, so there is a constant interplay between my sight and the feel of the bead in my hands as I rotate the mandrel. Can I feel that one side of the bead is pulling down more as I rotate the mandrel? If so, that's the side with too much glass and I have to get it to the opposite side of the mandrel either by marvering it (touching it to a tool surface such as graphite or brass) or by heat application and turning. I can also gauge this by holding the hot bead level with my eyes while turning, to observe the profile of the bead as I turn it. Is there the same volume of glass above the mandrel at all points around the bead as I turn it?

(image from my Playa Tortuga tutorial)

I also use touch when applying very small gauge fine silver wire to beads (for examples see this bead set). I briefly put the end of the wire into the flame, and touch it to a very hot spot on the bead, and then start to rotate the bead out of the flame. I'm waiting for a gentle tug on the wire that tells me that the wire is stuck to the bead. I need to feel this tug because the wire is so small that it's sometimes hard to see.

What other senses do I use? Well, obviously I use sight, but sometimes I inadvertently use taste, or at least my mouth. I make hollow beads and large holed beads using hollow mandrels, and after I dip them in bead release I stick them in a bucket of sand upright to dry. Sometimes I forget to tap the sand out of the end of the mandrel and end up with grit in my mouth as I'm starting to blow a bead.

My sense of smell comes into play when I'm inattentive, and a molten glob of glass drops from the rod onto my work surface, which is cement board that I spray painted black. There's not much appeal to the smell of burning paint, I can assure you, but it reminds me to pay closer attention.

Some days my sense of smell is also engaged when my exhaust fan sucks in wood smoke filled air from outside my studio, from our wood stove. That assures me that my ventilation is working, which is good.

Let's see - hearing. Normally when I make beads I hear the rhythmic "inhale" and "exhale" of my oxygen concentrator - it's a sound that's common in hospitals or nursing homes, but not typical in a normal household. It's rather loud, and normally I drown it out a bit with my iPod. When I had a problem with my concentrator the O2 output was low and I got an occasional kerplunk-SHUDDER from the concentrator and periodic bursts of hissing air that blew my flame out.

What about you? What senses do you use when you create?

7 comments:

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Hi Patti,

You write eloquently about how glass is an "indirect" touch media - like you, I absolutely can feel when a bead is unbalanced without even holding it up. It turns unevenly in the flame. Is that touch or a strong sense of balance and weight? Whichever it is, we glass beadmakers develop it fairly quickly.

I love glass but sometimes I just gotta get my hands on the media when I'm creating. When I'm frozen out of my unheated studio, it drives me to explore other ways to make beads. Right now, it's polymer clay which is engaging my sense of touch and vision.

Thanks for the thoughtful post!
Cindy

MaCarroll Beads said...

I would love to take a lampworking class someday just for the experience. I can only imagine what it is like. When I create my porcelain beads, the senses that I use most are sight, of course and I'm obsessive about them feeling smooth.... I don't like rough edges. I'll spend some time thinking about how I use my other three senses because I'm not sure....

mairedodd said...

i love this post! thank you for bringing us into your process... i am a visual and tactile person for the most part... olfactory - brings to mind los (because there are loud announcements in the house that EVERYONE knows i am using it)... and it is either loud - using a hammer - or quiet...

Patty said...

Wonderful comments - thank you so much! Cindy, I hope you keep us informed on your polymer clay efforts. That medium seems to share a lot of techniques with glass, with the big exception you mention - you can touch it.

Mary Jane - I KNOW what you mean about LOS. I forgot about that one. :-)

urbandon (Don Pezzano) said...

sound- (smoke alarm from soldering with the door closed)

Kristi Bowman said...

Thank you Patti for taking us in to your world for a few minutes. I would also love to do some glass work one day but I feel right now I'm already pulled in too many directions. One day I'll DO IT ALL!!!

Snowcatcher said...

Wow. I'm blown away. I didn't really have a picture in my mind of how you do your beautiful work (especially the detail in the Meanies!), and now... well, I've got much more appreciation than I already had, and you were already close to walking on water!

It was fun reading about how all your senses work together with your creativity!

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